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18th century French grenade, to be used with a grenade launcher.
Russian F1 grenade
An M67 grenade, used primarily by the U.S. and Canadian military
DM61A1 and DM78A1 grenades

A hand grenade is an anti-personnel weapon that explodes a short time after release. The French military term grenade probably comes from the shape of the pomegranate fruit, which is also called grenade in French.

Grenadiers were originally soldiers who specialized in throwing grenades. Today, some grenades are fired from rifles or from purpose-designed grenade launchers.



Hand grenades filled with Greek fire; surrounded by caltrops. (10th-12th c. National Historical Museum, Athens, Greece.)
Earliest known representation of a fire lance and a grenade (upper right), Dunhuang, 10th century CE.[1]
German grenade muskets from the 16th century (wheellock) and 18th century (flintlock) in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich
Production of Sidolówka hand grenades in an underground Armia Krajowa facility in Lwów during World War II

The first grenades appeared in the Byzantine Empire, not long after the reign of Leo III (717-741).[2] Byzantine soldiers learned that Greek fire, a Byzantine invention of the previous century, could not only be thrown by flamethrowers at the enemy, but also in stone and ceramic jars.[2] Later, glass containers were employed. Byzantine hand grenades with Greek fire in the 10th to 12th centuries are on display in the National Museum at Athens. The use of Greek fire, or rather variants thereof, spread to Muslim armies in the Near East, from where it reached China by the 10th century.[2]

Some medieval petards were small enough to be employed against enemy troops and be considered as primitive hand grenades.

In China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279AD), weapons known as Zhen Tian Lei were created when Chinese soldiers packed gunpowder into ceramic or metal containers. In 1044, a military book Wujing Zongyao ("Compilation of Military Classics") described various gunpowder recipes in which one can find, according to Joseph Needham, the prototype of the modern hand grenade.[3]

The first cast iron bombshells and grenades did not appear in Europe until 1467.[4] Within a couple centuries of this, the Chinese had discovered the explosive potential of packing hollowed cannonball shells with gunpowder. Written later by Jiao Yu in the mid 14th century book of the Huolongjing ("Fire Drake Manual"), this manuscript recorded an earlier Song-era cast iron cannon known as the "flying-cloud thunderclap eruptor" (fei yun pi-li pao). The manuscript stated that (Needham's modified Wade-Giles spelling):

The shells (phao) are made of cast iron, as large as a bowl and shaped like a ball. Inside they contain half a pound of 'divine fire' (shén huǒ, gunpowder). They are sent flying towards the enemy camp from an eruptor (mu phao); and when they get there a sound like a thunder-clap is heard, and flashes of light appear. If ten of these shells are fired successfully into the enemy camp, the whole place will be set ablaze...

This text of the Huolongjing was also important for the understanding of the Chinese hand grenade in the 14th century, as it provided much more detailed descriptions and even printed illustrations of the grenade bombs used.[6]

In 1643, it is possible that "Grenados" were thrown amongst the Welsh at Holt Bridge during the English Civil War. The word "grenade" originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel.[7] These grenades were not very effective (probably because a direct hit would be necessary for the grenade to have effect) and, as a result, saw little use.

However, trench warfare favored the grenade. In a letter to his sister, Colonel Hugh Robert Hibbert, described an improvised grenade employed during the Crimea War (1854-1856):

We have a new invention to annoy our friends in their pits. It consists in filling empty soda water bottles full of powder, old twisted nails and any other sharp or cutting thing we can find at the time, sticking a bit of tow in for a fuse then lighting it and throwing it quickly into our neighbours pit where it bursts, to their great annoyance. You may imagine their rage at seeing a soda water bottle come tumbling into a hole full of men with a little fuse burning away as proud as a real shell exploding and burying itself into soft parts of the flesh.
French troops using a catapult to throw hand grenades during World War I.

In the American Civil War, both sides used hand grenades equipped with a plunger that detonated the device upon impact. The North relied on experimental Ketchum Grenades, with a tail to ensure the nose would strike the target and start the fuse. The Confederacy used spherical hand grenades that weighed about six pounds, sometimes with a paper fuse. They also used Rains and Adams grenades, which were similar to the Ketchum in appearance and mechanism.

One of the first widely used percussion hand grenades was designed about 1903 by a colonel of Serbian army, Miloš Vasić. In 1912, Colonel Vasić further redesigned his hand grenade into "Vasić" M.12 model. They were adopted by Serbian army in 1912, just in time to be used in 1st and 2nd Balkan War (1912-1913) and extensively used by Serbian infantry in World War I.[9] That grenade was popular under name of "Vasićka" (by its designers name), or "Kragujevka" (by its place of manufacture, the military-technical works in Kragujevac, Serbia). The Vasić design was further developed into series of new hand grenades which lasted until far after the end of World War II.[10] The most infamous usage of the "Vasić" hand grenade was in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, when one of the involved threw one at the Archduke's car. The grenade bounced off and exploded under the following vehicle, wounding about 20 people. Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot to death later that day. Austro-Hungarian authorities confiscated a couple of "Vasić" grenades from assassins, and used them to support their accusations to Serbia for the alleged participation in assassination plot, the act that led to the outbreak of WWI[citation needed].

Early in World War I, both sides only had small grenades of a pre-war design. For example, in Italy, the Besozzi grenade had a five-second fuse with a match-tip that was ignited by striking on a ring on the soldier's hand.[11] As an interim measure, the troops often improvised their own, such as the Jam Tin Grenade. These were replaced when manufactured versions such as the Mills bomb, the first modern fragmentation grenade, became available to British front-line troops. The Mills bomb was developed at the Mills Munitions Factory in Birmingham, England and was described as the first "safe grenade". Approximately 75,000,000 grenades were made during World War I. They were explosive-filled steel canisters with a triggering pin and a distinctive deeply notched surface. This segmentation was thought to aid fragmentation and increase the grenade's deadliness. Later research showed that the segmentation did not improve fragmentation. Improved-fragmentation designs would later be made with the notches on the inside, but at the time, this would have been too expensive to produce. The external segmentation of the original Mills bomb was retained, since it did provide a positive grip surface. This basic "pin-and-pineapple" design is still used in some modern grenades. On the other hand, the U.S. M67 fragmentation grenade has a smooth exterior, which is more suitable for being rolled or for throwing in a flat arc.

To propel grenades farther, the rifle grenade was devised. This made use of a modified rifle with a blank cartridge to propel the grenade. These rifles may be permanently fixed in wooden support frames and would not be used for firing bullets. Use was also made of catapults, both manufactured and improvised, although these were eventually replaced in the trenches by small mortars.

Section of the Stielhandgranate Modell 24

Parallel to the Mills bomb and its similar counterparts, the Germans issued the "stick hand grenade" (Stielhandgranate Modell 24) which featured an explosive charge encased in a metal can and mounted on a wooden shaft for throwing. This simple design continued to evolve throughout the First and Second World Wars, with the Model 24 grenade (popularly known as the "potato masher") becoming one of the most easily recognized of all small arms, and synonymous with the German soldier.

The Molotov cocktail is an improvised grenade prepared from a glass bottle filled with alcohol (ethanol) or gasoline (petrol) ignited by a burning strip of cloth when the thrown bottle bursts against its target. The Molotov cocktail received its name during the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 Winter War, but had been in use earlier in the decade when used by Franco's troops during the Spanish Civil War. The name originated from Finnish troops during the Winter War. It was named after former Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov whom they deemed responsible for the war, and a humorous reference to the Soviet bombs known as "Molotov bread baskets" in Finland.


Unused and used M69 training grenades.
American soldier throwing grenade, 1944

Most grenades explode, projecting shrapnel, i.e. pieces of the casing, serrated wire, or an incendiary material. Some, such as smoke grenades, merely burn, releasing smoke for masking, marking, or signaling. Grenades are filled with explosive or chemical filler and have a hole into which a fuse is inserted. In modern hand grenades, the fuse is lit by an internal device rather than an external flame.


Hand grenades have five characteristics:

  • Their employment range is short.
  • Their effective kill radius is small, roughly 5 meters.
  • Their effective casualty radius is large. Approximately 15 meters.
  • Their delay element permits safe throwing;
  • Their hard shell enables grenades to ricochet off hard surfaces, like walls, before detonating.

Hand grenades have:

  • A body containing filler.
  • A filler, the chemical or explosive for fragmentation.
  • A fuse causing the grenade to explode by ignition or detonation.
U.S. Army grenade training during initial entry training includes throwing both dummy and live hand grenades. A hand grenade range instructor, right, observes an M67 grenade in flight.

Using grenades

A classic hand grenade has a safety handle or lever (known colloquially as the spoon, due to its size and shape) and a removable safety pin that prevents the handle from being released. Some grenade types also have a safety clip to further prevent the handle from coming off in transit.

To use a grenade the soldier grips it firmly with the throwing hand, ensuring that the safety lever is firmly held in place with the thumb. This is called the death grip, because letting the lever go could (and probably will) cause the grenade to detonate, killing the thrower. Left-handed soldiers are advised to invert the grenade, ensuring that the thumb is still the digit holding the safety lever in place. The pull ring of the safety pin is then grasped with the index or middle finger of the non-throwing hand and the safety pin is removed using a pulling and twisting motion. The grenade is then thrown towards the target, an over-arm throw is recommended but may not be suitable for an actual combat situation. Soldiers are trained to throw grenades in standing, prone-to-standing, kneeling, prone-to-kneeling, and alternate prone positions and in under- or side-arm throws. If the grenade is thrown from a standing position the thrower must then immediately seek cover or lie prone if no cover is nearby.

Once the grenade is thrown the safety lever is released and the striker throws the safety lever away from the grenade body as it rotates to detonate the primer. The primer explodes and ignites the fuse (sometimes called the delay element), the fuse burns down and activates the detonator which explodes the main charge.

When using an antipersonnel grenade, the objective is to have the grenade explode so that the target is within its effective radius. For the M67 fragmentation grenade used by several NATO nations, the effective kill zone has a five meter radius, while the casualty-inducing radius is approximately fifteen meters.[12] Fragments can fly as far as 230 meters. Usually people in a 15 m radius are injured enough to effectively render them harmless enough to not have to worry about them and deal with the immediate threat then deal with the injured people.

Cooking off is a term referring to intentionally holding onto an armed grenade after the pin has been pulled and the handle released; allowing the fuse to burn partially to decrease the time to detonation after throwing. This technique is used to reduce the ability of the enemy to take cover or throw the grenade back. It is also used to allow the grenade to burst in the air over defensive positions.[13] This technique is inherently dangerous, since fuses may vary from grenade to grenade. Because of this the U.S. Marines (MCWP 3-35) describe cooking-off as the "least preferred technique", recommending a "hard throw, skip/bounce technique" to prevent an enemy returning a grenade.

A call is usually given upon deploying a grenade, to warn friendly forces. Some yells, such as frag out or fire in the hole, are used when a grenade has been thrown in by an enemy; in any instance the purpose is to warn fellow soldiers to take cover. In the U.S. Military, when a grenade is dropped into an enclosed space like a tunnel, room, or trench, the person dropping the grenade should yell fire in the hole to warn that an explosion is about to occur. Standard U.S. military procedure includes calling frag out to indicate that a fragmentation grenade has been deployed.

Grenades are often used in the field to construct booby traps, using some action of the intended target (such as opening a door, or starting a car) to trigger the grenade. These grenade-based booby traps are simple to construct in the field using readily available materials. The most basic technique involves wedging a grenade in a tight spot so the safety lever does not leave the grenade when the pin is pulled. A string is then tied from the head assembly to another stationary object. When a soldier steps on the string, the grenade is pulled out of the narrow passageway, the safety lever is released, and the grenade detonates.

Abandoned booby traps and discarded grenades contribute to the problem of unexploded ordnance. The use of trip wire-triggered grenades (along with land mines in general) is banned under the Ottawa Treaty and may be treated as a war crime wherever it is ratified.

Discarded RGD-5 hand grenade (live but unfuzed) in Northern Kuwait.

India, the People's Republic of China, Russia, and the United States have not signed the treaty despite international pressure, citing self-defense needs.

36M Mills bomb dating from 1942

Grenades have also been made to release smoke, tear gas and other gases, as well as illumination. Special forces often use stun grenades to disorient people during entry into a room.

Some grenade designs were made to be thrown longer distances. The German "potato-masher" grenade had a long wooden handle that extended its range by fifty percent.[citation needed] The potato-masher was fired by a friction igniter in the head, which was activated by a pull string threaded through the hollow handle. Immediately before throwing the grenade, the soldier pulled a small porcelain ball attached to a string attached to the friction igniter. This started the time fuse which fired the detonator after a delay. The potato-masher is often incorrectly thought to have had an impact fuse. It did not, but the superficially similar British stick grenade design of 1908 did.


Two U.S. Marines take cover during M67 grenade training during Exercise Foal Eagle in 2004.


The fragmentation grenade (commonly known as a frag) is an anti-personnel weapon that is designed to disperse shrapnel upon exploding. The body is made of hard plastic or steel. Flechettes, notched wire, ball bearings or the case itself provide the fragments. When the word grenade is used without specification, and context does not suggest otherwise, it is generally assumed to refer to a fragmentation grenade.

These grenades were sometimes classed as defensive grenades because the effective casualty radius of some matched or exceeded the distance they could be thrown, thus necessitating them being thrown from behind cover. The Mills bomb or F1 grenade are examples of defensive grenades where the 30–45 m casualty radius[14] matched or exceeded the 30 m that a grenade could reasonably be thrown.

Modern fragmentation grenades such as the United States M67 grenade have a wounding radius of 15 m (half that of older style grenades which may still be encountered) and can be thrown about 40 m. Fragments may travel more than 200 m.[15]


The concussion grenade is an anti-personnel device that is designed to damage its target with explosive power alone. Compared to fragmentation grenades, the explosive filler is usually of a greater weight and volume. The case is far thinner and is designed to fragment as little as possible. The overpressure produced by this grenade when used in enclosed areas is greater than that produced by the fragmentation grenade. Therefore, it is especially effective in enclosed areas.

These grenades are usually classed as offensive weapons because the effective casualty radius is smaller than the distance it can be thrown. The concussion effect is more lethal than fragmentation, but its power drops more rapidly with range as well.

The US MK3A2 concussion grenade is filled with TNT and has a body made of tarred cardboard.

The term concussion is often erroneously applied to stun grenades. This is not descriptive of the effects caused by the grenade. The term concussion is used because the grenade relies on its explosive power to create casualties.


A percussion grenade detonates upon impact with the target. Classic examples of percussion grenades are the British Gammon bomb and No 69 grenade. Timed fuse grenades are generally preferred to hand-thrown percussion grenades because their fuzing mechanisms are safer and more robust than those used in percussion grenades. Some percussion grenades have a conventional pyrotechnic fuse fitted as a backup detonation device.


Smoke grenade

Smoke grenades are used as ground-to-ground or ground-to-air signaling devices, target or landing zone marking devices, and screening devices for unit movement. The body is a sheet-steel cylinder with emission holes in the top and bottom. These allow the smoke to be released when the grenade is ignited. Two main types exist, colored smoke (for signaling) and screening smoke. In colored smoke grenades, the filler consists of 250 to 350 grams of colored smoke mixture (mostly potassium chlorate, lactose and a dye). Screening smoke grenades usually contain HC (hexachloroethane/zinc) smoke mixture or TA (terephthalic acid) smoke mixture. HC smoke is harmful to breathe, since it contains hydrochloric acid. Whilst not intended as a primary effect, these grenades can generate enough heat to scald or burn unprotected skin and the spent casing should not be touched until it has cooled.

Riot control

CS gas grenade

Tear gas grenades are similar to smoke grenades in terms of shape and operation. In tear gas grenades the filler is generally 80 to 120 grams of CS gas combined with a pyrotechnic composition which burns to generate an aerosol of CS-laden smoke. This causes extreme irritation to the eyes and, if inhaled, to the nose and throat. (See also the Waco Siege). Occasionally CR gas is used instead of CS.


Incendiary grenade

Incendiary grenades (or thermite grenades) produce intense heat by means of a chemical reaction. The body is practically the same as that of a smoke grenade. The filler is 600 to 800 grams of thermate, which is an improved version of World War II-era thermite. The chemical reaction that produces the heat is called a thermite reaction. In this reaction, powdered aluminium metal and iron oxide react to produce a stream of molten iron and aluminium oxide. This reaction produces a tremendous amount of heat, burning at 2,200 °C (3,992 °F). This makes incendiary grenades useful for destroying weapons caches, artillery, and vehicles. Other advantages include its ability to function without an external oxygen source, allowing it to burn underwater. Because they are not intended to be thrown, thermate incendiary grenades generally have a shorter delay fuse than other grenades (e.g. two seconds).

White phosphorus (also used in smoke grenades; see above) can also be used as an incendiary agent. It burns at a temperature of 2,800 °C (5,070 °F). White phosphorus was notably used in the No 76 Special Incendiary Grenade by the British Home Guard during World War II.

Thermite and white phosphorus cause some of the worst and most painful burn injuries because they burn so quickly and at such a high temperature. In addition, white phosphorus is very poisonous: a dose of 50-100 milligrams is lethal to the average human.

A common improvised incendiary grenade is the Molotov cocktail.


A stun grenade, also known as a flashbang, is a nonlethal weapon. The first devices like this were created in the 1960s at the order of the British Special Air Service as an incapacitant.

These grenades are used to temporally neutralize the combat effectiveness of enemies by usually disorienting their senses.

IDF stun grenade

The flash of light momentarily activates all light sensitive cells in the eye, making vision impossible for approximately five seconds until the eye restores itself to its normal, unstimulated state. The incredibly loud blast produced by the grenade adds to its incapacitating properties by disturbing the fluid in the ear.

When detonated, the fuse/grenade body assembly remains intact. The body is a tube with holes along the sides which allow an explosion of light and sound to be produced. This is done to avoid injury from shrapnel but it is still possible to be burned, and injuries resulting from the concussive blast of the detonation can occur, the heat created can ignite flammable materials such as fuel. The fires that occurred during the Iranian Embassy Siege in London were caused by stun grenades. The filler consists of about 4.5 grams of a pyrotechnic metal-oxidant mix of magnesium or aluminium and an oxidizer such as ammonium perchlorate or potassium perchlorate.


Sting grenades (also called rubber ball grenades) are based on the design of the fragmentation grenade. Instead of using a metal casing to produce shrapnel, they are made using two spheres of hard rubber. Inside the smaller sphere is the explosive charge, primer, and detonator. The space between the two spheres is then filled with many small, hard rubber balls. Upon detonation, the subject is incapacitated, winded, or at the very least dislodged from cover, by the blunt force of the projectiles.

Some types, such as the ALSG101CS from ALS Technologies, have an additional payload of chemical agents like CS gas.[16]

The advantages compared to a flashbang are:

  • The subject does not need to be looking at the grenade for it to take full effect in outdoor areas.
  • Sting grenades are much more likely to cause a subject to either fall or lower himself in pain, thus providing good sight lines to unaffected targets in the area.

This makes sting grenades ideal for containing small groups of rowdy prisoners, providing a shooting opportunity when a suspect is hiding behind cover, or in allowing SWAT teams to clear small rooms.

A disadvantage of using sting grenades is that they are not sure to incapacitate a subject, so they are dangerous to use with armed subjects. This is because sting grenades rely on the body's reaction to adverse stimuli (pain and blunt force trauma) rather than denial of sensory input. A person with sufficient mental focus can concentrate enough to ignore being hit by a sting grenade's payload, whereas a stun grenade will physically affect vision and sense of orientation. The effective range of a sting grenade is limited compared to a stun grenade. In addition, there is the risk of serious physical injury as the target is being pelted with actual objects capable of inflicting harm, and not just being deafened/blinded.

Sting grenades are sometimes called "stinger grenades", which is a genericized trademark as "Stinger" is trademarked by Defense Technology for its own line of sting grenades.

Impact stun

Blank Firing Grenade

A more recent development is the blank-firing impact grenade (BFIG). Preferred in many situations, especially training, for two main reasons; they are re-usable, and therefore more economical, because the charge is a standard ammunition blank, and they are subject to very few transport restrictions when unloaded. The BFIG contains a mechanism to fire a blank cartridge when dropped at any angle onto a hard surface from a height of a metre or more. Firing will occur in any combination of positions only on impact.[17]


Soviet RPG-43 antitank grenade

The first anti-tank grenades were improvised devices. The Germans were the first during World War One to come up with an improvised anti-tank grenade, taking their stick (potato masher) grenade and taping three to two of the explosive tops, (minus the stick) to one complete grenade. In combat, after arming, the grenade was thrown on top of the slowly advancing tank where the armor was thin.

During World War Two, various nations made improvised antitank grenades by putting a number of defensive high explosive grenades into a sandbag. Due to their weight, these were normally thrown from very close range or directly placed in vulnerable spots onto an enemy vehicle. Another method used by the British Home Guard in 1940 was to place dynamite or some other high explosive in a thick sock and cover the lower part with axle grease and then place the grease covered part in a suitable size tin can. The antitank sock was pulled out, the fuse lit and the sock thrown against the side of the tank turret, which it was hoped would stick and on explosion cause internal spalling of the armor plate, killing or injuring the tank crew inside. [18] It is not known if this type of improvised anti-tank grenade was ever successfully employed in combat. The British later took this crude concept and developed the No 74 ST grenade. [19]

During World War II, when tanks overran entrenchments, hand grenades could be and were used by infantry as improvised anti-tank mines by placing or throwing them in the path of a tank in the hope of disabling a track. While this method was used in desperation, it usually proved more dangerous to the soldier on the ground than to the crew of the tank. During the Italian-Ethiopian War, according to the Italians, the Ethiopians used sections of railroad rail pushed between the tank's tracks and running wheels. [20]

Purpose-designed anti-tank grenades invariably use the shaped charge principle to penetrate tank armor. In military terminology, warheads employing shape charges are referred to as HEAT warheads, meaning high explosive anti-tank. Because of the manner in which shaped charges function, the grenade has to hit the vehicle at an exact right angle for the effect to work most efficiently. This is achieved by the grenade deploying a small drogue parachute or fabric streamers after being thrown.

Britain put the first anti-tank grenade into the field during the Second World War in late 1940 with the No 68 AT Grenade which was one of the first "any" type anti-tank weapons of the shape charge or HEAT type. The No 68 was fired from a rifle using the Mills grenade cup launcher. The Type 68 had a penetration of 50mm of armor plating, which was astonishing for 1940. Also developed by the UK during the war was the No 74 ST Grenade, popularly known as a sticky bomb, in which the main charge was held in a sphere covered in adhesive. In anticipation of a German invasion, the British Army asked for ideas for a simple, easy to use, ready for production and cheap close-in antitank weapon. The ST Grenade was a private development, but seeing how it was operated, the British Army rejected it for the Home Guard much less their regular forces.

The ST Grenade, though, attracted the attention of MD1, a group tasked with developing weapons for use in German and Italian occupied territory, and they placed the ST Grenade into mass production. In a full circle, the No 74 Grenade was later issued to troops as an emergency stop-gap measure against Italian tanks in North Africa, where it proved to the surprise of many highly effective. Later in the war, the No 74 also proved itself with French partisans in sabotage work against German installations. [21]

Shortly after the German invasion of Russia in 1941, the Germans introduced the Panzerwurfmine(L), an extremely lethal close-quarter HEAT anti-tank grenade which could destroy the heaviest armored tanks of the war. The grenade was tossed overhand giving a trajectory where it landed on the top of the tank. After release by the thrower, three spring-out canvas fins stabilized it during its' short flight. The Panzerwurfmine(L), while extremely lethal and inexpensive to manufacture, but required considerable skill to throw with accuracy and was issued only to specially trained infantry tank-killer teams. [22]

It did not take long after the Russians captured the German Panzerwurfmine(L) to come out with their own hand thrown antitank grenade that used a HEAT warhead. In 1940, they had developed a crude antitank grenade that used the simple blast effect of a large high explosive charge, designated RPG-40 which was stabilized in flight by a ribbon that was released after it was thrown. [23] The RPG-43 (developed in late 1943) was a modified RPG-40 with a cone liner and a large number of fabric ribbons for flight stabilization after release. In the last year of the war, they introduced the RPG-6, a total redesign of the RPG-43 with an improved kite-tail drogue in the handle and a standoff for the HEAT warhead, drastically increasing both accuracy and penetration was reported to be over 100mm, more than adequate to cause catastrophic damage to any tank if it impacted the top. Unlike the German Panzerwurfmine(L), the Russian RPG-43 and RPG-6 were far simpler to use in combat and did not require extensive training.

After the end of World War Two, many eastern European nations engineered their own versions of the RPG-6, such as the East German AZ-58-K-100. These were manufactured in the tens of thousands and given to "armies of national liberation", seeing combat worldwide, including with the Egyptian Army during 1967 and 1973. [24] [25]

In the final two years of World War Two, the Japanese developed a crude HEAT hand thrown antitank grenade and a suicide-weapon HEAT-warhead anti-tank grenade, which was neither launched nor thrown, but rammed home like a bayonet. The first was a hand thrown hand grenade which had a simple 100mm diameter cone HEAT warhead fitted with an ultra simple "all the way" fuse system in the base of the warhead (and if it was dropped accidentally after the safety pin was removed, it would explode) with what looked like the end of an old fashion mop head on the tail end of the warhead. The antitank grenade was removed from its sack, the safety pin pulled, and thrown by operator gripping the mop-head as the handle. This was a dangerous system as there was no arming safety after release and the thrower could strike something in his back swing before release. Penetration was reported to be only approximately 50mm.

The second Japanese antitank grenade -- a suicide weapon -- was nicknamed the lunge mine. This weapon was a very large HEAT warhead on a five foot stick, which when rammed forward a sheer wire would break allowing a strike pin to impact a primer and detonate the large HEAT warhead, destroying both the tank and the soldiers using the "lunge mine". While crude, the Japanese "lunge mine" had six inches of penetration, the greatest penetration of any antitank grenades of World War Two. The hand thrown antitank grenade was first encountered by the US Army in 1944 in the Philippines (some believe they were locally manufactured), while the later suicide "lunge mine" first saw combat during the U.S. invasion of Saipan and then the subsequent invasion of Okinawa. Tens of thousands of these crude "lunge mines" had been produced and issued to both regular units and home-guard units on the home islands of Japan before the war ended. [26]

External images
US Army Early 1980s HAG Concept
Details of HAG concept (US Army)
Details of Combat Use of HAG (US Army)

In the late 1970's, the U.S. Army was worried about the lack of emergency antitank weapons for issue to its rear area units, to counter isolated enemy armored vehicles infiltrating or being air dropped. When the US Army asked for ideas, engineers at U.S. Army laboratories suggested the reverse-engineered and additional safety improvements of the East German AZ-58-K-100 HEAT antitank grenade that had been obtained from various classified sources. This concept was called "HAG" for High-explosive Antiarmor Grenade. While the civilian engineers working for the US Army thought it was a great idea, it was rejected out of hand by almost all senior US Army officers who had in the past commanded troops in the field as being of more dangerous to the troops who used them than the enemy vehicles that would be targeted. The idea was quietly shelved by 1985. [27][28]

The most widely-distributed anti-tank grenades today are the post World War Two Russian designs of the 1950s and 1960s, mainly the RKG-3.

Due to improvements in modern tank armor, anti-tank hand grenades are generally considered obsolete. However, in the recent Iraq War, the RKG-3 anti-tank hand grenade has made a reappearance with Iraqi insurgents who use them primarily against U.S. Humvees, Stykers and MRAPs, which lack the heavier armor of tanks. This has in turn led the U.S. to adopt countermeasures such as modifications to the MRAP vehicles by the fitting of "slate" armor or "bird cage" armor which causes the antitank grenade to detonate too early.[29]

Grenades as ornamentation

Grenade on a kepi of the French Army.
The pomegranate's (grenade in French) shape probably gave its name to the hand grenade.

Stylized pictures of early grenades, emitting a flame, are used as ornaments on military uniforms, particularly in France (esp. French Gendarmerie and the French Foreign Legion), and Italy (Carabinieri). Fusilier regiments in the British and Commonwealth tradition (e.g., the Princess Louise Fusiliers, Canadian Army) wear a cap-badge depicting flaming grenade, reflecting their historic use of grenades in the assault. The British Grenadier Guards took their name and cap badge of a burning grenade from repelling an attack of French Grenadiers at Waterloo. The Spanish artillery arm uses a flaming grenade as its badge. The flag of the Russian Ground Forces also bears a flaming grenade device. The branch insignia of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps also uses this symbol, the grenade being symbolic of explosive ordnance in general. The United States Marine Corps also uses the grenade on their uniforms: the rank insignia for master gunnery sergeant has three chevrons pointing up, with four rockers on the bottom. In the middle of this is a bursting bomb, or grenade. U.S. Navy Aviation Ordnanceman's rating badge features a winged device of similar design. Ukrainian mechanized infantry and engineers use a flaming grenade in their branch insignia.

See also


  1. ^ "The Genius of China", Robert Temple
  2. ^ a b c Robert James Forbes: "Studies in Ancient Technology", Leiden 1993, ISBN 978-90-04-00621-8, p.107
  3. ^ Joseph Needham: Science and civilization in China: Vol. 5; Part 6: Chemistry and chemical technology; Military technology: missiles and sieges, Cambridge University Press 1994, ISBN 0-521-32727-X
  4. ^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 179.
  5. ^ Needham, Volume 5, 264.
  6. ^ Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 179-180.
  7. ^ Cramb, Auslan (23 Feb 2004). "Battlefield gives up 1689 hand grenade". Scotland Correspondent. 
  8. ^ "The National Archives, records of the UK government". Letters of Hibbert, Hugh Robert, 1828-1895, Colonel, ref. DHB/57 - date: 14 June 1855. Retrieved 2006-08-09. 
  9. ^ "Istorijat". Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  10. ^ LEXPEV. "Yugoslavian hand- and riflegrenades". Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  11. ^ How the Modern Grenadier is Armed: an ancient practice that was revived by the trench fighting of the great war, Popular Science monthly, January 1919, page 14, Scanned by Google Books:
  12. ^ United States Army Field Manual 3-23.30, Grenades and Pyrotechnic Signals (2005 revision), page 1-6
  13. ^ United States Army Field Manual 3-23.30, Grenades and Pyrotechnic Signals (2005 revision), pages 3-11 to 3-12
  14. ^ (Ukrainian) [1]
  15. ^ Federation of American Scientists. M67 FRAGMENTATION HAND GRENADE
  16. ^ "ALS Technologies, Inc. - ALSG101CS". Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  17. ^ "Impact Stun Grenade from HFM Pyrotechnics:". Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  18. ^ a 1941 issue of LIFE magazine showed a series of photo on how to make such antitank grenades along with X shaped slit trenches to protect the grenade thrower
  19. ^ Ian Hogg "Grenades & Mortars" page 38 Ballantine Books 1974
  20. ^ A.J. Barker "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936" page 49 Ballantine Books/1971
  21. ^ Ian Hogg "Grenades & Mortars" page 39 Ballantine Books 1974
  22. ^ Chris Bishop "Weapons of World War II" page 207-208 Barnes and Nobles Books 1998
  23. ^ Denis H.R. Archer "Jane's Infantry Weapons" page 462
  24. ^ Chris Bishop "Weapons of World War II" page 214 Barnes and Nobles Books 1998
  25. ^ Denis H.R. Archer "Jane's Infantry Weapons" page 464-465
  26. ^ edited by W.H. Tantum and E.J. Hoffschmidt "Second World War COMBAT WEAPONS - JAPANESE" page 174 and 184
  27. ^ Eric C. Ludvigsen "Association of the United States Army GREEN BOOK 1984-85" page 348
  28. ^ As this type of antitank grenade had been successfully employed by other armies in the Second World War, one can only conclude that cultural factors influenced the decision of the senior officers. As it was, the decision left many rear-area U.S. units with no heavier "antitank weapon" than the M2 heavy machine gun.
  29. ^
  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Part 7. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.

External links


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